Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard


September 2015

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Harrow Borough

Harrow Borough FC is a non-league football club from the north west boundary of London. They were formed in 1933 as Roxonian FC playing local league football at Northolt Road, before moving to Earlsmead and the Spartan League a year later.

In 1939 the club changed its name to Harrow Town with a move into the Delphanian League coming in 1958 following a promotion. They remained there until the league disbanded in 1964 when they became members of the Athenian League.

In 1968 a final name change was agreed when the club became Harrow Borough FC. At this time they faced financial problems that nearly killed the club. The reserve team pitch at Earlsmead was later sold to the council to raise funds to stabilise the club and develop the ground. In 1975 'The Boro' were elected into into the Isthmian League. 

Promotion was won to the Premier Division in 1978-79 under manager Micky Tomkys.

In 1982-83 Boro went on a tremendous run to reach the semi finals of the FA Trophy. Wembley, Wellingborough Town, Chelmsford City, Bromley, Sutton United, Barrow and Enfield were all defeated before they fell 5-2 on aggregate.

The following season saw success in the FA Cup. Boro battled through from the first qualifying round including a win against then high flying Fisher Athletic. Yeovil Town were dispatched in round one before third tier Newport County knocked them out after a second round replay. 

The team went on to win the Isthmian League by seventeen points. Around this time Boro turned down the financially risky invitation to join the Football Conference. Tompkys retired in 1985, with Harry Manoe taking up the managers post a few years later.

The team reached the first round of the FA Cup again in 2000-01, where they were defeated 3-0 away to Wycombe Wanderers. Meanwhile, Boro had many escapes from relegation over the years earning them the nickname of Houdini Borough! 

The club did lift some local trophies and in 2004 they missed out on a place in Conference South after losing the play off final on penalty kicks. Boro introduced a youth side to the club in 2009. 

David Howell who managed Boro from 2003, with future big money striker Albert Adomah starting his career at the club; with the team making another first round appearance in the FA Cup in 2010-11; which saw Chesterfield visit Earlsmead and depart with a 2-0 victory.

Howell left the club in 2011 to take the same job at St Albans City. He was replaced by the experienced Dave Anderson who began to rebuild the side from scratch. Former Chelsea youngster Rob Wolleaston became a regular in midfield.

After several seasons at the helm Anderson moved on early in 2015 with the side looking favourites for relegation. However, Steve Baker came in and oversaw a magnificent recovery to lead Borough to safety on the final day of the 2014-15 campaign.

Baker's side finished in the bottom third in 2015-16 before reaching round one of the FA Cup in 2016-17; going out 6-0 at Sixfields to Northampton Town. The run saw young striker Ibrahim Meité seal a move to Cardiff City.

However, the team struggled in the league. Harrow finished in a relegation spot at the end of the season but were reprieved by Worcester City taking voluntary relegation further up the pyramid. Boro's 53 points meant that they had the best total of the relegated sides and stayed up.

Harrow Borough will play in the Isthmian League Premier Division for the 2017-18 season.

My visits

Sunday 15th January 1984

I was at college at Boreham Wood and visiting non league clubs fascinated me. It was in the fairly early days of finding out about clubs far and wide. A few seasons earlier my Dad had bought me one of the first ever non league annuals, which turned out to be one of my most valuable gifts.

New clubs and leagues came to my attention. My geography of the UK improved instantly and I was captivated by some of the capacities of stadiums which seemed massive to me at the time.

Now at college I had been to a few matches when finances allowed but to be honest, my course was not going well and I'd just about resigned myself to pulling out later that year. I decided that it would be a good idea to travel round and visit a few grounds when I had the chance. I didn't envisage living in London fifteen years later!

I got a bus map and started planning my journey. I didn't realise a one day travelcard existed covering tubes and buses to cover the places I wanted to visit, so I paid for each individual journey sticking purely to buses. Indeed I ended up walking two miles back to my digs after my cash ran out.

It was a clear and frosty morning when I set out for Earlsmead. It took two buses to get to my destination but fortunately the ground was open on my arrival.

It looked a nice enough venue. I entered the ground in the north east corner. The goal at my end had a narrow open terrace with the large clubhouse and changing rooms building behind it. The facility had been built after the land sale in 1967. 

The players entered the pitch from behind the goal. The far touchline had a small covered standing area which was erected in 1947. Alongside it was the quaintest of seated stands. It was called the Champniss Stand after the club president who had originally given the club the land for their ground. 

It was like a small pavilion and had seats for 250 people. The rest of that side and behind the far goal consisted of a few steps of open terracing. This continued along the fourth side where a long low cover sheltered fans from the elements.

I took my photos before walking back to the main Northolt Road to wait for my next bus towards the next club on my agenda; Hayes FC. Incredibly I stood by the bus stop when a car stopped. A mate from college, QPR fan Steve Austin was driving down to Heathrow to collect a relative. When I told him what I was doing he drove me to the top of Church Road, saving me time and money.

I was immediately getting to like this groundhopping business!

Midweek League Cup match around 2000

It was winter time and I was now working at Lord's Cricket Ground in London. I had been going to a few different matches and I'd struck up a friendship with a colleague and media man Stuart Wetherhead. He also had interest in non league football.

I arranged to go to a cup game at Earlsmead Stadium as it was now grandly called, and meet up with Stuart. I got there a bit early and enjoyed a couple of pints in the decent clubhouse.

We went out to watch the game. I cannot remember Boro's opponents on the night, but the crowd was between 150 and 200. It was a coldish night and if my memory serves me right, Boro won two nil.

By now the Champniss Stand had gone owing to the strict health and safety laws to be replaced by a slightly larger but characterless new seated stand. The rest of the ground was how I remembered.

Stuart kindly gave me a lift back up to Harrow on the Hill station so my journey home took very little time.

Friday 20th October 2006

I had the day off work and decided to go and visit some grounds in West London. As ever, once I'd got into my task I was determined to continue further. After North Greenwich United I decided to catch some buses up to Earlsmead for some up to date photos.

I got lost in the surrounding streets and managed to do a lap of the ground before locating the main entrance. The ground was locked, but the perimeter walls were low enough to afford me a view to get some snaps as a man looked on suspiciously from the first floor office.

The ground was as I remembered from my previous visit.

Harrow Borough 0 Wealdstone 0 (Wednesday 11th April 2012) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 617)

I had just come back a couple of days previously from a wonderful two week holiday in Thailand. On my return I bought my Non League Paper and discovered that the local derby had been put back as Wealdstone had been involved in the Middlesex Senior Cup Final on Easter Monday, when the league game had originally being designated a slot.

As I was on early shift I thought it a good option to pop down to Earlsmead. Even better was a tweet from Paul Foster who was going to the game with his Dad, Tony. Both were pals of mine from watching Middlesex throughout the summer. As West Ham fans who never missed a match, I figured that they needed some light relief!

Paul picked me up from Rayners Lane station around 6pm, from where we headed straight to the ground. A large crowd was anticipated and I wanted to ensure I managed to buy a programme. I also fancied a couple of beers!

We arrived and went straight into the clubhouse. I had a bit of a soft spot for The Stones so I wanted them to win the game so they could reach the play offs. I tweeted them to let them know they would be getting support from a Scarborough Athletic fan. I made sure I had my club jacket on as I do at a lot of games. It can be a conversation piece and I've met many good football people through it. I ordered the beers when a gent approached me.

'Did you use to work at Lord's?' he asked. I said I did, hoping it wasn't a late complaint coming in! 'Do you now work on the Underground?' Again I answered in the affirmative. I wondered what was coming next until he revealed all. 

He worked with John Cards, a good mate of mine who follows QPR with his brother Jeff. His name was Tony Venus and he was a Harrow fan and assisted on match days. He said that he thought it must have been me when he saw my jacket. Apparently I've been discussed by other football fans at work!

I bought a programme from Tony as well as some half time draw tickets. He tried speaking to John, but the noise at the other end was too loud as he was on his way to Rangers vital game with Swansea. 

Paul and I watched the climax of an IPL game before heading to the turnstiles where there was a small queue. There was even a community policeman out in the street near to the grounds entrance. We walked along and stood near to the half way like as Tony Foster had now arrived.

The Stones had several games in hand of their rivals because of their superb FA Trophy run which took them all the way to the semi finals. Ideally they needed a win to boost any chance of promotion via the play offs. However, a local derby with Borough was always going to be difficult.

Harrow, near the wrong end of the division, defended well as a unit and had a few opportunities of their own. Ashlee Jones the Stones keeper on loan from Braintree was having the most shaky of starts and nearly gifted a goal on a couple of occasions. At the other end Richard Jolly was being frustrated as he tried to add to his impressive goal tally to please the large away following of at least 450.

Chances were few and far between as half time came and went. Borough's Garry Jones let fly with a fierce twenty five yarder which produced a top class save from Jones, who gathered confidence as the game went on. The Stones had the majority of the ball in the home sides half, but they could not create a clear cut chance as the game drifted towards and eventually ended goalless.

Paul dropped me at North Harrow station and I was home at just gone 11pm to catch up with a dramatic evening's football in which Wigan had defeated Man Utd. I was still glad I'd made the effort to go to a game in good company rather than watching one on Sky.

Harrow Borough 2 VCD Athletic 0 (Tuesday 24th March 2015) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 179)

Having finished my night shifts I was looking at a few choices of games, but in the end I plumped for a revisit in the company of Tony Foster.

I thought my timings were good to arrive at Earlsmead but I got a little lost on the buses from Rayners Lane, ending up getting out at South Harrow station and walking. I thought I’d be pushing making kick off when Tony rung to say that the VCD bus had just arrived as they had been stuck in traffic.

We had a pint before heading inside for what was an important relegation battle for Boro. The visitors were already as good as down. Harrow’s form had picked up under new boss Steve Baker, and they were giving themselves a real chance.

Cheered on by loyal fans, Boro deservedly led at the break through a Lewis Driver goal on the half hour. The Kent side showed some decent play going forward, but their defence was creaky at times.

It was a cold windy night but we took shelter down the side and enjoyed a couple of hot drinks to keep us going. After ten minutes of the restart Michael Peacock had doubled the lead. The Boro side were constantly given good advice from the management team and held onto their lead to secure a deserved three points.

Tony kindly dropped me back at Rayners Lane and I was back in my local Wetherspoons in Kingsbury before 10.30.

Harrow Borough 4 Sawbridgeworth Town 1 (Saturday 3rd September 2016) FA Cup First Qualifying Round (att: 118)

The two Steve’s of Kingsbury; Speller and Barnes met me at the Harrow branch of Wetherspoons where we discussed our options for the afternoon. An FA Cup tie was always the preferred choice.

Once Harrow advertised that they’d be doing real ale, they won the vote. The clubhouse was busy as the large room was staging a Nepalese wedding. There were many pretty costumes with attractive bodies inside them.

The match pitted Sawbridgeworth of the Essex Senior League against the hosts, who played two divisions above. The visitors brought along a fair number of supporters along for their big day out as their team were appearing at this stage for the first ever time.

Their side did them proud despite the final score, as they created several chances. It was the more experienced side that went through thanks to goals from Marc Charles-Smith and Francis Babalola before the break. Luke Williams had to pull off some saves in the home goal.

Substitute Ibrahim Meite’s pace was too much for the Town defence as he made it three. Louis Bristow pulled the goal back that Sawbo deserved with just a few minutes remaining. Williams was then forced into a double save as the visiting fans found their voices.

Any dreams were soon diminished as Meite pulled back for Michael Bryan to conclude the scoring. We enjoyed a couple more beers back in the convivial clubhouse to round off an excellent afternoon.

Harrow Borough 2 Hayes & Yeading United 0 (Tuesday 8th November 2016) Middlesex Senior Cup (att: 98)

My original destination was intended to be Hendon v Northwood in the same competition but news came through on Twitter that the match had fallen victim to a floodlight failure at Silver Jubilee Park. I was joined on the bus to Earlsmead by Steve Barnes.

The match was decent enough, with both sides giving it their best. It would be Harrow who progressed to the quarter finals through first half goals from Ibrahim Meite and then Will Turl.

The visitors were playing their first game under the control of new management team of Ritchie Hanlon and Paul Hughes, who rung the changes at half time as their side put in an improved performance. Meite would go on to join Cardiff City after a trial period.

Harrow Borough 1 Tonbridge Angels 0 (Tuesday 20th December) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 164)

I was running a bit late to meet Tony Foster for what promised to be an intriguing clash as Harrow looked to drag themselves away from the relegation spots. The cheeseburger & tea for £4.50 was excellent, and served by the ever friendly couple behind the hatch.

It turned out to be an excellent free flowing entertaining match, played at a good tempo with lots of chances and fine saves at either end. A draw would probably have about right, but fair play to the home side who took one of their chances when Davi8d Taylor scored with just over twenty minutes remaining.

There was very little to fault. A good crowd had turned out, with a decent away following and many familiar faces who can also be seen at Hendon and Wealdstone games. It was thoroughly enjoyable and exactly why I love non-league and getting out of the house.

Harrow Borough 3 Leiston 1 (Saturday 18th February 2017) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 179)

My shift at work finished around 2.30 at Ruislip Manor. Although my relief was a few minutes later than ideal and I was extremely tired from my sleep pattern, I took the 114 bus to the game and was well rewarded even though I missed the first ten minutes

It was a lovely early Spring day as Borough put in an excellent performance against the side from Suffolk who were on an indifferent run despite occupying one of the play off places.

Matt Blake was outstanding up front for the visitors, who had the majority of the play but didn’t capitalise on the chances they created. Harrow went one up when Steve Brown’s header from a corner went in. Joe Francis levelled things up for Leiston in the sixty sixth minute, from which point either side had chances.

It would be Boro’s day as they snatched two goals in the last ten minutes. Shaun Preddie’s impressive work fed Sahr Kabba who finished at the near post. The points were secured when substitute Harry Newman redirected a George Nicholas shot beyond Leiston custodian Jacob Marsden.

It was a most enjoyable game watched in the company of my old pal Tony Foster.

Harrow Borough 0 Hendon 2 (Monday 17th April) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 328)

My holiday in Thailand had come to an end and my thoughts had been on this vital six pointer relegation battle for the previous couple of days. My flights via Abu Dhabi were scheduled to land me back at Heathrow at 1pm. All being well that would leave me two hours to reach Earlsmead for the Easter Monday game.

As it turned out my flight was a little bit early and I got through customs and baggage in quick time. I ordered an Uber cab due to tiredness and the size of my luggage and was sat in the bar at the ground in time for a couple of pints of welcome real ale. The officials at Boro kindly let me leave my bags in the back room.

The food at Earlsmead was as good as ever. Hendon probably just about had the majority of support in the ground. I stood in my usual place down the side with Tony Foster and Richard Rogers.

The game was extremely scrappy and even early on. Boro had surprisingly started with three centre backs as though a draw would do them. Gradually the Dons midfield got control, leading to Sam Murphy setting up Matt Ball to score with a deflected shot.

Dons keeper Tom Locklove only had one shot to save, which he dealt with comfortably. Straight after the break Khale Da Costa was set free and he lobbed Brendan Hazlett in the home net to double the lead.

Harrow huffed and puffed but Hendon defended resolutely and looked the more likely side to score thereafter. All the home side could muster was a few decent crosses after manager Steve baker eventually rang the changes.

The away fans were absolutely delighted at full time as the win meant that victory on the final day of the season at home to Staines Town would secure safety, which was looking unlikely a few weeks earlier.

Harrow Borough 0 Hendon 4 (Tuesday 26th December 2017) Isthmian League Premier Division (att: 280)

The derby was to kick off at 1pm, so I met Steve Barnes at Kingsbury station around 11.15 in the hope of another goals bonanza; as the previous two Boxing Day encounters between the sides had ended 5-5 and 4-5.

We took the 183 and then H10 buses past plenty of shoppers who had been starved of spending money for a day or so, before heading to the clubhouse at The Rogers Family Stadium; as Earsmead had been retitled. The ever welcoming bar offered a choice of Rebellion or Young’s Special bitter.

The bar became very busy, with a good turn out of Dons fans joining the locals. My friends Jeff, John and Rob sat with us, along with a pleasant father and son as tales of Christmas Day and the England cricket team were high on the agenda.

Admission was £10 and the excellent informative programme £2. Hendon were on a decent run and in the play off places; while Harrow were having a bit of a struggle. A few Dons players were missing through illness.

Heavy rain had fallen over North West London overnight, leaving the pitch heavy in places and cutting up straight from the kick off. This affected the standard of the football as the first half hour was a very scrappy affair.

Hendon then gradually got on top, in a mirror image of the corresponding fixture from the previous season at Earlsmead. Niko Muir unleashed a terrific bending shot than cannoned back off the Boro bar with keeper Melvin Minter left grasping thin air.

The visitors had been aided by the injury to home midfielder Michael Bryan. He impressed me each time I’d seen him, but he was forced off with what looked like a side injury. The breakthrough eventually came seven minutes before the interval.

A low shot from Josh Walker took a slight deflection and bobbled in front of Minter. The custodian fumbled the ball as it went in off defender Chinua Cole, with the goal later being awarded to Walker.

The lead was nearly double shortly after, but Keagan Cole just failed to finish a hard low cross at the far post. I took the opportunity of having a walk around the ground and catch up with friends while the teams retreated to receive instructions.

Hendon came out a different side after the break, and simply overpowered Boro. Within three minutes a near post corner had been helped on by Rian Bray. The ricochet in the middle fell to Dave Diedhiou who smashed home.

It was 3-0 just after the hour mark as Hendon began to put some terrific moves together. The excellent Zak Joseph was freed down the right and his low cross was blocked. The ball came out to around ten yard from goal for Walker to fire home.

Another excellent move saw Joseph denied by an excellent low save from Minter who touched his volley against the post. Hendon’s defence and excellent midfield allowed their forwards scope to torment.

Muir was to get his name on the score sheet with seven minutes of normal time remaining. Walker was having his best game for the club and twisted inside and out as Cole brought the wide man down. Muir slotted home the penalty.

Diedhiou nearly added another but couldn’t convert at the far post; with the big man sliding into the post and nearly uprooting it in the process. Muir had a header disallowed for reasons best known only to referee Michael Smith.

The mood back in the bar was most upbeat from the visiting fans and in stark contrast to a few months earlier when phones were being checked for the results of other sides in the relegation mix.

I left the busy clubhouse, where the club Christmas draw was in full swing to take buses back and have a sleep before my night shift.

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